Lohan Needs Treatment -- Not Jail Time

Lindsay Lohan's 90-day sentence is a perfect example of how messed up and ridiculous our criminal justice system is.

All of the available research on alcoholism shows that it is a disease. Locking someone up in jail, not allowing them access to other inmates and not providing treatment has been going on for hundreds of years in this country. It is not consistent with what is known about treatment and its outcome.

It is true that Lohan's jail time will be followed by a period of treatment, but the jail time is just because society still wants to punish people. Punishment does not change behavior. Tough, no-nonsense treatment does.

Former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (now known as HHS) Joseph Califano Jr. recommends treatment and jail alternatives. "We're not protecting the public safety because we are not treating the problem," he says.

Drug treatment, especially community-based treatment, has worked more effectively to reduce recidivism as well as costs of incarceration. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Jail and prison do not reduce the incarceration rates, alternative programs do.

Sending Lindsay Lohan to jail makes her an "example." The problem is that when the disease of alcoholism takes hold, "examples" and self control go out the window, and the disease process takes over.

The best plan to get Lohan to stop driving while intoxicated and to get her sober for good is to make sure she is in a tough but effective treatment program. Once the initial stage is over, then she should work in a "mirroring" type program that has been effective for impaired health professionals.

This would mean that as part of a community service portion of her treatment, she would work with young people who are in the recovery process. Perhaps it might mean being a "note taker" in court-assigned therapy groups, or working in a halfway house with younger drug/alcohol addicted clients.

All of this would serve the community, make sure that she is not having an easy time because of her star status, cost the community less money than incarceration and actually might get Lohan to stop drinking.

Wouldn't that be a better alternative?

Ellen Ratner is Washington bureau chief for Talk Radio News Service and a Fox News contributor. She spent more than 20 years working in the mental health field.

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